Russia on Monday began the final phase of handing over control of the Tajik-Afghan border to Tajik border guards as part of a plan to fully withdraw Russian border troops from the ex-Soviet republic by 2006.
Russia has helped the impoverished Central Asian nation patrol its border with Afghanistan since 1991. The Tajik-Afghan border is a major trafficking route for illegal drugs from Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer.
Russian border guards were first to cede control of 112 kilometers (70 miles) of the 247 kilometers (148 miles) the two services still patrol jointly, the Russian border guards' press service said.
Forest fires in Siberia have been raging for three months already. They have become a disaster not only of Russian, but of global scale. The fires have already scorched 12 million hectares of land